Securing Democracy Dispatch

2019-06-24T16:02:47-04:00
June 24, 2019
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Our Take

Partisan politics stands in the way of implementing many commonsense measures to address foreign interference in U.S. democratic processes, ASD Deputy Director Dave Salvo argues in an op-ed for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Disinformation surrounding cyber threats could be particularly detrimental to the electoral process, ASD Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt noted to PBS NewsHour.

Deepfake technologies are becoming available to ordinary people, not only machine learning experts, ASD Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman said on NPR’s All Things Considered.  She also describes how research advances are democratizing access to deepfakes in a blog post following last week’s House Intelligence hearing on artificial intelligence.

Congress should formally take up legislation to ban anonymous shell companies, ASD Fellow on Malign Finance Joshua Rudolph wrote in a list of proposed hearing questions to lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee. In a second set of questions, he emphasized the need to explore how U.S. laws can be updated to build resilience against foreign corruption.

“Shallow fakes” can be just as detrimental as deepfakes, ASD non-resident Fellow Aviv Ovadya noted on NPRs On Point.

News and Commentary

European Commission found sustained effort by Russian sources to influence EU elections: Last week, European Union Security Commissioner Julian King stated that “Russian sources” used fake news and social media accounts to suppress voter turnout and influence voter preferences in EU member states ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections. According to the European Commission report, the campaign was locally focused with a high number of accounts pushing extreme or polarizing views, specifically anti-Islam and anti-migrant sentiments. The disclosure follows similar high-profile accounts of ongoing Russian efforts to undermine public trust and foment division in the West. ASD Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer and Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina have also said that this report underscores Europe’s shifting posture towards disinformation, and provides valuable lessons for the United States as it inches closer to the 2020 presidential election. (Deutsche Welle, Europa.eu, ASD)

Facebook’s plans for new cryptocurrency heighten security and privacy concerns: Facebook announced its plans to create a new cryptocurrency, known as Libra, with the goal of moving towards a lower-cost and more accessible global financial system. Regulators in Europe have called for a high-level forum to examine the potential risks Libra could pose to the financial system, while other officials expressed fears that any cryptocurrency may help users launder money or evade sanctions. Three European central banks are preemptively claiming direct regulatory oversight over the proposed cryptocurrency, while U.S. lawmakers, such as the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee Maxine Waters (D-CA), are urging Facebook to halt the development of Libra until it answers questions about user privacy. ASD Senior Fellow Josh Kirschenbaum argues that the controversy surrounding Libra highlights the need to strengthen the U.S. regulatory framework for digital payments, especially with regard to anti-money laundering. The current approach, which leaves enforcement to fifty state-level supervisors, could make the expanding digital payments industry an appealing entry point to the U.S. financial system for foreign interference operations, laundering of criminal and corruption proceeds, and other illicit activity. (The New York Times, Libra.org, Financial Times, Wired, Euractiv, Politico, ASD)

In other news

  • The European Council’s 2020 Strategic Agenda calls for greater cooperation between EU member states and institutions in fighting cyber and disinformation threats.
  • Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) will introduce bipartisan legislation today requiring social media companies to inform users about how their data is being monetized.
  • Facebook announced the creation of a Strategic Response team to mitigate the effects of hate speech and misinformation that could potentially incite real-world violence.
  • Twenty-two state attorneys general sent a letter to Congress asking for federal funding to secure election infrastructure ahead of 2020.
  • Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose released a directive requiring intrusion detection devices at the polls and more cyber security training.
  • The Federal Trade Commission investigates claims that YouTube failed to protect children from “troubling content.”
  • Maryland hired its first chief information security officer, tasked with identifying and defending against cyberthreats.
  • The U.S. Department of Education is investigating potentially undisclosed foreign funding at Georgetown University and Texas A&M University.

Quote of the Week

“Rising powers are using asymmetrical attacks to diminish our leadership role and influence in the world. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea all have state-sponsored ‘programs’ aimed at harming the United States. We need to address these emerging threats head on.”

  • Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AK), rolling out the 2020 American Security Agenda at the International Summit on Borders, June 18, 2019
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.